The last two years in the NBA lacked the intrigue we love about sports. Like a movie, we knew how the ending was going to be- with the Golden State Warriors celebrating as the last team standing.
But, unlike a movie, the build-up to the end and even the end were letdowns, save for the 2017 Western Conference Finals. The regular seasons lacked excitement, as did the playoffs to an extent. The “exciting series” were all for naught because we knew those teams stood no chance against Golden State. There was no parity regarding title contenders. And even the 2017 Western Conference Finals were hampered by injuries in the end.
2018 was supposed to be more of the same but, a quarter into the season, the league has been a wild frenzy which no one could have expected. Everywhere you look, you will find teams where they are not supposed to be.
The Warriors are not as invincible as they once were. There has been drama surrounding the franchise since the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green spat. Drama that may have been there in the past but has finally become public and has clearly affected the team’s play.
They lost four games in a row for the first time since Steve Kerr became the head coach back in 2015. You can argue that they haven’t been at full strength for much of the season, which is valid, and aren’t the same team without Steph Curry, regardless of the talent still available.
But when does that excuse stop and we finally admit that Curry being susceptible to injury at any given point is a legitimate downfall to the team? He is thin and fragile with an injury history since entering the league. Health is a legitimate weakness of his, and if it continues to be, the Warriors will be vulnerable to any of the good teams in the NBA.
And the mess continues beyond the defending champions. The Boston Celtics were viewed as the best team in the Eastern Conference and the NBA’s best bet at dethroning the Warriors before the season started.
But they find themselves stumbling out of the gate at 11-10 and sixth in the Eastern Conference. It’s still early, but they continue to dig themselves a deeper and deeper hole each with each game.
They have struggled to incorporate Gordon Hayward back into the team which has taken a toll on youngsters such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
And the deeper they dig themselves, the tougher it will get for Boston to catch up to the top of the East, where the Milwaukee Bucks have surprisingly risen to.
Milwaukee is part of the upper-echelon of, not only the East but the NBA. They have the second-best record in the entire league, behind only the Toronto Raptors.
It’s fair to say that no one would have thought that Toronto and Milwaukee would be the two best teams in the league at any point this season. But they are and are led by the two best offenses in the NBA. Raise your hand if you thought that would be the case.
And the third-best team in the league? The one and only Los Angeles Clippers. They sit atop the Western Conference at 13-6 (as of the morning of November 28), after being a lottery team last season.
The most shocking thing about this is that LA’s second team is having this success without any stars. They have a bunch of solid (at best), NBA players, with a few above-average players, sprinkled in. But their success shows that team basketball and chemistry is still crucial.
The Memphis Grizzlies are antique in the NBA because they might be the lone “grind it out” team remaining in the NBA. And after being one of the worst teams in the league in during 2017-2018, they are 12-8 and fifth in the Western Conference.
But these two squads are not the only historically middle-of-the-road or bad teams having surprising success. The Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings are .500 on the young season. Their young talent is blooming and winning them games.
The Detroit Pistons are 11-7, and the Charlotte Hornets are 10-10, good for playoff position in the East. And the Orlando Magic recently beat the Los Angeles Lakers twice in eight days and had a significant lead at Golden State before Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson brought the Warriors back. Orlando finds themselves just one game under .500 and eighth in the East.
But on the other end of the spectrum, to have such big surprises, it needs to be balanced out by disappointments.
The Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, and Utah Jazz find themselves out of the Western playoffs right now. The Jazz, in particular, have been a huge disappointment, sitting down at 14th in the Conference.
In the East, we already mentioned the Boston Celtics. The Washington Wizards have been better recently, but on a macro level, the season has been a mess both on and off the court. And the Miami Heat have been bad as well, sitting at 7-13.
On a micro-level, the Philadelphia 76ers are 10-1 at home, but their lone loss came at the hands of the 2-14 (at the time) Cleveland Cavaliers. But the upsets didn’t stop there, as the Cavs happened the beat a hot Rockets team the following night.
And after losing 16-straight games to the Portland Trailblazers, a streak dating back to 2014, the Los Angeles Lakers have won two in a row against the Blazers, including a rare victory in the Pacific Northwest.
There’s been an absurdity surrounding this NBA season, and a lot has to do with the uptick in the offense we are seeing. As long as you can score, you will be in every game. Leads are less safe now, and double-digit leads are quickly dissipated because of the ease it is to score with.
And because of it, the less talented teams are finding more ways to win because everyone can put the ball in the bucket, but not everyone can stop their opponents from doing so- even the good ones.
Usually, more offense means a great product, but in this case, it doesn’t necessarily mean that — just another element to the absurdity of the 2018-2019 season. A lot of the high-scoring games have been hard to watch because of the lack of defense and easy buckets teams are getting.
We will eventually see whether all this is sustainable, or if things will ultimately stabilize and go back to normal. But for now, it’s been a wildly unpredictable season, which has been hard to define because it’s hard to say whether it’s fun, bad, or just flat-out weird. But if this continues, it will be more fun than recent seasons.